Publishers Weekly, 2001-08-27 When historical novels are produced by writers whose expertise in the field is matched by vivid storytelling skills, the results as in this novel are generally outstanding. With this 10th book (after A Book of Reasons), veteran novelist Vernon reimagines the first full-length exploration of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River by white Americans in 1869. Maj. John Wesley Powell former Union Army officer, one-armed engineer and scientist led the harrowing expedition to map the territory. With nine men in four boats, Powell began a saga of discovery that took 100 days, covered 1,000 miles and cost the lives of a third of his men. Two converging plot lines provide dramatic tension. One focuses on Powell and his men as they battle deadly rapids, heat, near-starvation, isolation, despair and each other. The other tells of a destitute party of Paiute Indians desperately struggling to survive in the hostile environment of the deserts on the canyon rim. Powell's party is in trouble from the start, with a wrecked boat, lost food and equipment, and the realization that not all the men are competent or emotionally suited for such a rigorous and hazardous journey. Powell's leadership is tested time and again, until mutiny and desertion leave him with just two boats, six men and no food. The Paiutes, too, are in grave trouble and a chance meeting with white men only aggravates their nearly hopeless situation. The story of Powell's remarkable journey evokes a rugged time in our nation's history when men in search of knowledge or glory would willingly subject themselves to grueling hardship and privation. The publisher has a chance here to seize on readers' appetites for outdoors adventure, though some may think the Paiute subplot is a distraction from the central tale. (Oct. 16) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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